Sunday, August 3, 2008

Move over, Kindle

As an old-fashioned reader whose attitude toward technology is influenced by an early-adopter husband, I've been thinking a lot about what the development of e-readers might mean to me. On the one hand, I love the feel of books in my hands: their textures, their faintly woodsy smells. On the other hand, the convenience of an e-reader is very enticing. And inevitable.

In the midst of the book world tumbling headlong toward an e-evolution, I was pleasantly surprised to read of Alexander Bick, a graduate student at Princeton, who founded a publishing house, Crumpled Press to publish
, by hand, works that are typically tossed aside, thus the name. Can you imagine? Folded, cut, sewn by hand (with needles and threads!) How? At book-binding "parties" where volunteers come and work for eight to ten hours. They've published eight pamphlets and books since 2005.

This brings all sorts of questions to mind: how can they continue to be viable? Why would volunteers keep coming back after the initial high of being a part of a counter-culture wears off? With these books being so labor-intensive, will they become an object of art or will the words and ideas remain the most powerful thing? And just what do they serve at those book-binding parties?

It is no surprise that their latest venture is a book about the digitization of information and the future of bricks-and-mortar-libraries. I suppose when the old ways are threatened by new ones, there are always debates with everyone having to choose their side. I am very happy with modern plumbing, thank you, but I'm not convinced by enthusiastic sales pitches about the latest model of an electronic grand piano sounding and feeling exactly the same, or better, then my outdated model. I don't need my piano to be hand-made top to bottom (can't afford it anyway), but I do prefer the sound made from physical hammers hitting physical strings
reflected from wooden sound boards.

I suppose I fall in the same place on the continuum in publishing: I hope there will be books for a long, long time to come. Hand sewing optional.

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